The dry spell came to an end as damp and warmer weather arrived last week. This week is forecasted to be predominantly wet but I don’t think it will amount to a great deal of rain overall. The leaves are suddenly abandoning the trees with only the oaks and hornbeam still with leaf. Our apple trees are suddenly bare but some fruit still hangs on the Bramley which look like gifts on a Christmas tree; quite a remarkable season for apple.
We finished ploughing our maize ground at Northchapel and it turned over very well indeed, but as we started ploughing some really heavy clay up at Rudgwick, the damp weather interfered with the grip available and we had to give up; a great shame as a few more days would have given us a chance to prepare our most marginal land for next season. I very much doubt we will get another chance before spring, barring a heavy frost.
The weather is also causing chaos elsewhere, with 60 inches of snow in Jordan, the capital Amman being colder than Iceland last week according to a friend of mine who is over there establishing a new dairy unit. Jerusalem was affected by the snowstorm, and a snowman was built in front of the Dome on the Rock, which looked out of place to say the least.
It has been the heaviest snowfall in the region for 60 years. Is this climate change or just unusual weather patterns? Farmers in the UK hit last week by the tidal surge are being warned that the unsettled weather could continue. Large areas of low lying coastal land in East Yorkshire, East Anglia, North Wales and Scotland were left under water when harsh conditions hit last week.
I have bought another bull for the farm; a show- bull no less! Our single Aberdeen Angus bull has struggled with too many heifers, a spell of lameness in the summer possibly caused by overwork, and lack of rest. We normally run two bulls and send them off when they get too big, too heavy and rather stroppy as they age. This year I only had one, but with no chance of bringing cattle in to handle and make bull changes due to no fences and no gates, never mind the ‘high-viz’ jackets and clatter of the building site, I had no choice but to leave things as they were. With all our eggs in one basket as it were, results have not been as good as we usually achieve, and now a new bull is needed to step into the arena.
There is enough work for both, as there are heifers indoors at Crouchlands who need attention from a different bull, and a batch of young heifers at Tillington at grass which are also old enough and mature enough to be mated. I shall have the new bull at home in the shed whilst he settles down and finishes the work started by our own bull, whilst he can be transported to Tillington to work there. I shall swap them over after 6 weeks, and that should achieve our objectives of getting all heifers in calf.
I don’t like bulls much, and I certainly worry about staff being around them. Aberdeen Angus are very good as a rule, but they are bulls and therefore dangerous.
A very good young farmer was killed in Shropshire by a bull only two weeks ago as he was bringing animals in for bovine TB testing; another casualty in the long list of people killed and injured trying to cope with this terrible disease. Rather than put out adverts which contravene the advertising authorities and disrupt trials, the animal welfare groups should give some thought to the real price some people pay whilst they struggle to deal with bTB.
At long last the UK dairy industry have come up with a proper strategy to export. Following the NFU Strategy launched in June, a joint industry strategy was presented to Defra’s Dairy Supply Chain Forum which aims to eliminate the UK’s dairy deficit of £1.2 billion by 2025.
Dr Judith Bryans Chief Executive of Dairy UK emphasised how important it is that the whole industry pulls together, something she can and is willing to play a full part in doing, unlike her long time predecessor Jim Begg who was a complete disaster for the industry.
There is real optimism in the industry as world markets maintain resilience, China faces up to its dairy crisis with 2 million dairy cows culled in the last 12 months alone, Arla and Muller Wiseman continue to invest in this country and are competing for dairy farmer suppliers, and costs on farm come down. It has been a long time coming and I used to rant at the lack of ambition of our processing sector when I was NFU Dairy Board Chairman, and sadly it has taken foreign companies to come here and take it over before real progress has been made. There is a long way to go, but at least we are all facing in the right direction at long last.
I don’t want to sound dangerously optimistic, but as supermarkets compete for British produce, badger trials leading the way to ultimately controlling and then eradicating bTB, a growing realisation that yields and efficiency of British agriculture cannot happen without proper scientific input, and that GM is now making progress in the EU, 2014 could be the first year of progress in British agriculture and the beginning of a new dawn.
We are likely to be allowed bigger trailers carrying heavier weights behind tractors; how long have we been fighting for that?
Just as we approach Christmas and many people are looking forward to some Christmas cheer, the spoil-sports have decided to wade in and this time they have picked on 007 himself; Bond, James Bond. He could not have carried out those missions, driven his car in that way, or indeed attracted the girls given how much he drank doctors said.
There followed a catalogue of boozy moments, units of alcohol consumed per week; indeed a complete analysis not only of his drinking, but of the harm done to his body. Apparently Bond drank four times the NHS recommended rate for a man, and that he had his Vodka Martini shaken and not stirred simply because his boozed induced tremors would have rendered him incapable of mixing a drink!
I ask you – is nothing sacred? James Bond was not your average man in the street, and living to old age given his occupation was not uppermost in his mind. He was the spy who could defeat the villains, drive a powerful car at incredible speeds, cheat death most days and then woe the girl as he got stuck into some serious drinking.
I can’t believe that doctors read all 14 of Fleming’s novels noting down every drink mentioned and then wrote a report in the British Medical Journal; I kid you not! If you were in trouble, would you be offering James Bond a breathalyser before accepting his assistance? I don’t think so.